Co-op agrees motors deal

THE East of England Co-operative Society has agreed the sale of its motor dealerships in Colchester and Sudbury - the latest move in its phased withdrawal from the vehicle sector.

THE East of England Co-operative Society has agreed the sale of its motor dealerships in Colchester and Sudbury - the latest move in its phased withdrawal from the vehicle sector.

The co-op's Sterling Motor Group division is to transfer its Peugeot dealership in Wimpole Road, Colchester, to the Underwoods Motor Group - already based in the town - from the end of this week.

Sterling's Peugeot and Vauxhall dealerships in Cornard Road, Sudbury, will also be acquired by Underwoods later this month.

In addition, the East of England Co-op said yesterday that discussions were also “progressing well” regarding the separate sale of its Derby Road site in Ipswich, which is currently the base for Peugeot and Citroen dealerships.

“Prominent in negotiations with prospective purchasers has been the desire to ensure that as many as possible of the staff of the motor group are able to successfully transfer to new employers and that business continuity for customers is seamless,” said the society in a statement yesterday.

“The immediate impact on most Sterling customers will, therefore, be minimised, as they will be able to enjoy ongoing service in familiar surroundings. The society will be retaining a freehold interest in the sites in the majority of cases.”

Most Read

Every effort would be made to find alternative opportunities for any staff displaced as a consequence of the disposal, the society added.

Rationalisation of the Sterling business began last spring with the closure of its Ipswich Car Exchange used vehicle operation and the Norwich North Peugeot dealership.

This was followed by the consolidation of the Felixstowe Peugeot dealership within the Derby Road site in Ipswich in June and the scaling down of the Jeep and Chrysler dealership in Kings Lynn in October.

The East of England Co-op was formed last year through the merger of the Ipswich & Norwich society, which included the Sterling business, and the Colchester & East Essex society.

James Day, head of corporate affairs at the East of England Co-op, said: “The former Ipswich & Norwich society's board of directors concluded that the volatility and changing nature of the motor business had taken it further away from the main direction of the society.

“However, the East of England society will continue to invest heavily in retail stores and services. Separating the businesses will give greater focus and clarity to that process.”

And Mr Day added: “By selling our motor business to established high volume dealerships we will secure continuity for our customers and staff.”

Underwoods' dealership network already includes Vauxhall, Mazda and Skoda franchises in Colchester and another Vauxhall franchise in Clacton-on-Sea.

The East of England Co-op's retail investment programme includes multi-million pound developments at Ravenswood in Ipswich and Stanway in Colchester, along with an schedule of store refurbishments and acquisition opportunities.

The society has an annual turnover of around £400million and employs around 5,000 people, with around 200 trading across Norfolk, Suffolk and north Essex.